The Panthers signed Alex Petrovic to 1-year contract extension on Saturday while Sebastian Repo joined the organization on a 3-year entry-level deal on Sunday.
Petrovic, a restricted free-agent, expressed a strong desire to return to the Panthers at exit meetings in April, and the team thought highly enough of him to prevent the Golden Knights from taking him in the expansion draft.
During the season and prior to the expansion draft, Petrovic’s name came up often as a potential selection by Vegas, but the Panthers went the method of protecting 8 skaters to retain both him and Mark Pysyk.
“I’d love to be here,” said Petrovic at the end of the season. “I’m really excited for this off-season. I wanna win a Stanley Cup here in Florida, they deserve it.”
This past season was Petrovic’s second full year in the NHL, and despite missing time with a broken ankle in the first half, he proved to be one of the Panthers’ more reliable defensemen.
The 24-year old’s strong play from the 2016 playoffs carried over into this season where he tallied 14 points in 49 games and led the Panthers’ defensemen with an assists per 60 rate of 0.98, which was nearly double the next best finish.
The extension will earn Petrovic $1.85 million and he’ll be a restricted free-agent once again when the upcoming season is over.
“That’s what they wanted,” said General Manager Dale Tallon of the 1-year deal. “He wanted to prove himself and that’s exactly what we agreed to do. It was a great negotiation [process] and I’m happy for [Petrovic].
“It’s a good deal for him and for us as well and he’s gonna play with a lot of energy this year and he’s gonna love playing for Bob Boughner.”
The past couple of weeks have been a quick turnaround for Sebastian Repo; he was chosen by the Panthers in the 6th round of the draft last Friday and already has a deal with the team.
The 21-year old, who already has 3 years of pro experience in Finland, impressed at this week’s development camp with his size, skating, and shot.
“I create a lot of energy for the team,” said Repo of his style of play. “I like the physical game, [crashing] the net, shooting a lot. I have a good shot and [can] create some offense. I’m ready to stand up for my teammates so that’s what I do too.”
Prior to joining the league full time, Repo played 25 games in the USHL with the Sioux City Musketeers where he recorded 15 points in 25 games during the 2014-15 season.
“He’s played pro hockey already, he’s pro ready,” said Jason Bukala, the Panthers’ Director of Amateur Scouting, at the draft. “He’s gonna have a chance to come over here and play either in the [AHL] and we’ll see where it goes from there, NHL maybe.”
Most recently, he tallied 32 points in 46 games for Tappara in Liiga and was tied for the league lead in goals during the playoffs with 6. He was a teammate of Henrik Haapala, who the Panthers signed as a free-agent last month.
Repo helped lead Tappara to the Liiga championship this past season.
“I have played 3 seasons in Liiga in Finland as a pro so I think I’m ready now,” said Repo. “I’m a few years older than the other guys and I’m a lot stronger and bigger now so I think I’m ready now.”
Repo is expected to compete for a spot on the Panthers’ roster at training camp in September and could be a good fit in the bottom-6.
It’s been a long time since the Panthers have drafted a player capable of giving quality minutes in the bottom half of the lineup, and Repo – as well as Maxim Mamin, Jayce Hawryluk, and others – give the organization some hope in that regard.
If the Finnish forward doesn’t make the Panthers, he’s eligible to play for the team’s AHL affiliate where he’d likely get top-6 minutes.
“We’ve got some young kids we’re gonna throw in the lineup as well,” said Tallon on Saturday as he spoke about the team’s free-agent signings. “It’s gonna be an exciting team.”